By Peter Finch
You hear a lot of reasons for golf courses shutting down these days. Too much competition. Not enough demand. Runaway maintenance costs.
Pennsylvania course owner Richard Angino (right) blames spiteful physicians for not supporting his Felicita Golf Course in Harrisburg, causing him to close its doors for good this spring.
He's a litigator, you see, who makes his living suing doctors formalpractice. "Absolutely that's the reason," he says. "This is centralPennsylvania. It's a small, small community. I have a high profile. Theyfelt I was making enormous money from lawsuits and didn't want tosupport me."
Did he hear this directly from doctors? "No, they wouldn't say it to myface," he says. "But they would tell people who would tell me."
I read about Angino's plan to shut his course a few days ago and caught up with him by phone last night.
People have approached him about buying the course, he says, but he doesn't want to sell. He plans to manage the property --part of roughly 800 acres he owns -- as a venue for weddings and other events. Its website: felicitaresort.com.
It's pretty clear Angino marches to his own beat. A non-golfer (but self-described "great athlete"), he bought the course for $3.1 million in 1997 and set about renovating it. His chief interest: gardening. He nicknamed the course "Augusta North" and gave each hole a theme. The first (below) was meant to recall a Japanese zen garden; the second, "Magnolia," drew inspiration from the South, and so on.
Local golfers never really got behind "Augusta North." Which is fitting, because Angino doesn't have a lot of love for them, either. "I saw something online where a guy who had a corporate membership said I never talked to him," Angino says. "No, I didn't. I'm not in that business. Someone else said I care more for flowers than I do for my members. It's true! I care a lot more about my flowers and gardens!
"I'm not a fan of golfers," he continues. "I'm not a fan of the country club crowd. They always seemed like stuffy people to me."
Angino figures he spent about $10 million on the course and its clubhouse over the years. It was never profitable, but this doesn't seem to be burning him up inside. "I've done a lot of stupid things," he concedes with a laugh. "I spent $10 million on a golf course when Idon't like golf, and people didn't like what I did with it."
One last question: The course used to be called New Mountain. Why did he rename it Felicita? I wondered.
"That's Italian," Angino says. "It means great happiness.' "
Photo credits: Angino and Lutz P.C., Felicita Resort